I’m always interested in discovering new authors, and a couple weeks ago I was intrigued by an obituary for Milorad Pavic, a Serbian novelist who died on Nov. 30, at age 80. I haven’t read any of Pavic’s books, but it seems that readers who love language and nonlinear narratives would find a gold mine in his novels.
Dictionary of the Khazars, from 1988, is organized (you guessed it) like a dictionary. According to the New York Times, the novel, “which purports to be the republication of a late-17th-century dictionary printed in poison ink, opens encouragingly:
The author assures the reader that he will not have to die if he reads this book, as did the user of the 1691 edition, when ‘The Khazar Dictionary’ still had its first scribe.” Ha!
Landscape Painted With Tea, another of Pavic’s novels, is organized as a crossword puzzle: “Readers may approach the book chronologically by reading only the “Across” sections, or less chronologically and with more digressions by reading the “Down” sections. Either strategy gradually reveals the story of a soul-searching architect who roams a labyrinth of meditation and memory.”
That description reminded me of a novel I’ve been working at reading for a couple of years now. (I know you all have one: the book you keep picking up and putting down again—but dang it you will finish it!) Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch is structured in an equally unusual fashion as Pavic’s books; you can either read it in direct sequence, from beginning to end. . . or you can “hopscotch” through the book’s chapters by following a table provided by Cortázar. (I think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” for grownups.)
Since I’m compiling my reading list for 2010, I wondered if readers had suggestions for other wackily-structured novels, or authors who employ an unusual device in their writing.